Sidewalks will be under consideration in Phase 5

By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – A new city policy promoting sidewalks and bike paths will apply to a series of road-improvement projects eyed by the Major Thoroughfare Committee.
The committee on Monday unveiled its plans for the next five years, which includes widening several of Tupelo’s most heavily traveled roads using a 10-mill property tax levy. Those on tap for work include portions of Eason Boulevard, East Main Street, Thomas Street and Veterans Boulevard.
Voters could decide by May whether to authorize the work in what’s being called Phase 5 of the Major Thoroughfare Program.
But unlike its previous projects, those coming up for future consideration fall under the provisions of the city’s Complete Streets policy.
That policy, adopted by the City Council earlier this year, requires that sidewalks and bike paths be considered on all new and reconstructed streets. Other non-vehicular amenities, like crosswalks, benches and plants, also must be envisioned.
It doesn’t mean those features will be incorporated into the final project – sometimes because they’re not always feasible or cost-effective – but it does mean they’ll get serious consideration.
Committee Chairman Greg Pirkle said the group will look at the projects with and without the Complete Streets recommendations. But he predicted many of the amenities would push project costs above the maximum 5 percent threshold.
According to the city’s policy, non-vehicular amenities don’t have to be included if their costs exceed 5 percent of the total project.
“Most of our projects are so big, I don’t think (the policy) will affect us,” said committee member Chuck Imbler Jr.
Council members emphasized that the policy affects the Major Thoroughfare Program and its future projects, and the group will be held accountable.
“Like on Veterans” Boulevard, said council President Fred Pitts, “there is no reason not to provide at least on one side a bicycle lane.”
Since its inception 20 years ago, the committee had widened several roads throughout the city and is building one new road – none of them have included sidewalks or bike paths.
Even if big-ticket features cost too much, the committee might have to incorporate other, less expensive options if the city deems them appropriate.
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or emily.lecoz@djournal.com.